Internet capacity crunch: The internet could be reaching its limits in eight years, researchers warn

Clara Guibourg
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Internet hitting peak capacity? (Source: Getty)

Are we about to break the internet?

The internet is heading straight for a “capacity crunch”, as it struggles to keep up with our demands, UK researchers have warned, with an overload expected within eight years.

In today’s streaming society, we all expect to be able to watch our favourite TV shows in high-res and video chat with granny while cats attempting to do yoga autoplay on our Facebook newsfeed.

But our ever-growing demands could be taking its toll on the very fibre optics cables that make all of that possible.

Internet speeds have increased fiftyfold in the past decade alone, but demand keeps soaring faster, and professor Andrew Ellis of Aston University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science said we’ve reached a point where it’s “increasingly difficult” for capacity to stay ahead:

It’s incredible we’ve managed to stay ahead this long, but now researchers are finding they just cannot fit much more data down traditional fibre optic lines.

Unless we increase costs by deploying more fibres, we may need radical changes to the way we either use or distribute data if we are to overcome this capacity crunch.

Optics researchers will be meeting to discuss the problem at the conference Lightfest later this week.

Laying down more cables would solve - or at least postpone - the crunch, but this would mean increased costs.

Professor Ellis suggests we may need to introduce “internet rationing”, to manage the capacity we consume:

We should start having the conversation now – are consumers willing to accept higher charges for increased bandwidth or can we be more considered about the capacity we consume?

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